When does fighting become a mortal sin?

I’ve never actually been in any real fights and I don’t plan to be, but I’m curious? A verbal argument is most likely not a mortal sin. Are things like fistfights venial if no one is seriously hurt or if it is in the spirit of sport. I’m just wondering under what circumstances do fights, whether they’re verbal or physical, become mortal sins.

Three conditions must be met for a sin to be mortal. the CCC says…
1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”

1858 Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: “Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother.” The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.

1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.

Your question seems to be trying to address the matter of gravity and doing so in a fairly broad way. I would suggest that you look at the “Golden Rule”, or the “Second Great commandment” as your guide in measuring gravity. We are to love others as we love ourselves. We are to treat others as we wish to be treated.

People who fight for sport go into the ring expecting to be treated by the rules and expectations of the ring. One who debates likewise expects their opponent to act within the proper parameters of the debate setting.

The above are formal settings. Outside of a formal setting, it can become a bit more difficult…but ultimately, when we are treating another in a way that we do not wish to be treated…we’ve moved into sin…
Once we recognize this, we have “knowledge” (sufficient to know it is a sin), and whether we continue in this becomes a choice (deliberate consent). Thus two of the three conditions of mortal sin are present.

As to the gravity of the matter…This is a bit of a judgement call. Your question is too broad to give any sort of definitive answer. The best guidance I can give is this.
When someone treats you in in a way you do not wish to be treated (through arguing or fighting or threats of fighting), how does it make you feel?
Are you merely “stung” by the treatment, or does it make you want to punish or even cut off contact with the other person?
If stung…then the matter is probably venial.
If deeper - to the point of cutting off contact with the other person - then the matter is more grave.

I know the above is not very precise. This is because every case is slightly different. If you have any concern over a given situation, it is best to confess it and to get the advice of a good confessor.


Anger and acting in anger is wrong:

Matthew 5:21-26

'You have heard how it was said to our ancestors, You shall not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you, anyone who is angry with a brother will answer for it before the court; anyone who calls a brother “Fool” will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and anyone who calls him “Traitor” will answer for it in hell fire. So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. In truth I tell you, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.

Pax Vobiscum+

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What is the purpose of the “fight”? Is the fight necessary?

Verbal - can it be discussed and not “fought”? Is it verbally degrading and harmful or simply discussion?

Why would a physical “fistfight” be needed? What positive fruit of the fight is the outcome?

As far as “spirit of sport”, do you mean an organize sport with rules as a game of physical skill, planning, training, and strength as in wrestling or boxing?

Verbal “fighting” can be a mortal sin… use of words can be mortally sinful, just as physically harming someone.

Keep yourself pure in mind and body and word. Ask St. Michael the Archangel for guidance that you will not face mortal or venial sins of fighting. Seek God’s forgiveness if you ever find you have harmed someone verbally or physically.


:slapfight: venial, usually

:blackeye::stretcher::crutches: mortal

Seriously, it probably depends on a lot of factors - intent to harm, amount of anger/rage, was it self-defense or revenge, and so on.

I have a big mouth and I have to work constantly that I don’t wound people verbally - and haul my rear to Confession if I do. God’s graces are helping but I’m a tough nut to crack. One thing that helps me get in less trouble is to work on humility and letting God be in charge. Otherwise I get bossy with people and the sin of pride starts working on me. Then I start getting impatient if they don’t do what I, in my superior wisdom :rolleyes:, think they should do and from there it’s a short leap to snarkville.

So I guess I’m saying, know your own triggers and work on defusing them.

Ok so just an example, I just finished reading S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and in this book, the lower class “Greasers” are in constant “battle” with the upper class Socials, or “Socs.” Now when I say battle I mean that the Socs jump the greasers for the plain simple fact that they are not as wealthy as they are and they find it fun. Obviously this is sinful. In the book, it seems to me that, although the greasers sometimes participate in illegal activities such as stealing etc., when it comes to fighting it is usually out of self defense. This is permissible. Now sometimes, a “rumble” would occur where all the greasers and all the socs would get into one large fistfight. No weapons. The first group to flee the fight loses. Would this go into the category of sport or contest.

No - for the underlying reasons are sinful ones - hate, envy and pride.

When considered from this standpoint the rumble is little more than a symptom of the larger and deeper (and deadlier) sin.


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